December 15, 2013
Message of the Assembly Elections

THE elections to the five state assemblies have given a clear verdict. The unambiguous message is the outright rejection of the Congress in four states. Only the small state of Mizoram in the North East is an exception where the Congress retained its majority. In Rajasthan and Delhi, where there were Congress governments, they have been routed in a manner never before. In Rajasthan, the Congress managed to get only 21 seats which is just over 10 per cent of the total seats. In Delhi, it has got an abysmal eight seats which translated into only 11 per cent of the total seats. In Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, the BJP has won for the third time in succession. In both these states, the BJP had been in office for ten years. In Madhya Pradesh, there were corruption charges against 13 ministers; lakhs of acres of land were gifted to companies displacing tens of thousands of people; the living conditions of the ordinary people particularly the adivasis had deteriorated. Yet, the Congress party failed miserably in mobilising the popular discontent. The people refused to choose the Congress because their image and record inspired no confidence. Rather, the Congress-led UPA government at the centre is reviled for its policies which have fuelled rampant price rise and spawned massive corruption. The same situation prevailed in Chattisgarh. These four states have for long had a bipolar situation with the two parties – the BJP and the Congress – dominating the scene. The BJP was thus able to register a victory in these elections, being the beneficiary of the strong anti-Congress mood among the people. The new feature, however, has been the results of the Delhi election. Apart from the Congress rout, the BJP could not attain a majority in the election. This was due to the success of the Aam Admi Party which won 28 seats and got nearly 30 per cent of the vote. The AAP has been able to win support from the middle classes and substantial sections of the urban poor and the Scheduled Castes. What the Delhi result shows is that where there is a viable alternative to the Congress and the BJP, the people will support it. It remains to be seen what political programme the AAP will formulate and how it will consolidate its support base. The media has termed these elections as a “semi-final” to the Lok Sabha elections. Some observers have also projected these results as a national trend whereby Modi is going to be propelled to the prime ministership. Such views are simplistic and misplaced. First of all, these elections are not a “semi-final” for the general elections. The four states that went to the polls contribute only 72 seats, ie, 13 per cent of the total Lok Sabha seats. To extrapolate any national trend from these results would be erroneous. Both in the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won a majority of these 72 seats, yet the NDA lost the elections. What can be stated with certainty is that there is a strong anti-Congress trend among the people. Unlike the four states where bipolarity exists between the Congress and the BJP, in the bulk of the other states, this is not the situation. There the fight is between the Congress and the regional parties or the Left and in some cases, there is a situation of three-cornered contests. In many of these places, the beneficiaries of the anti-Congress mood will not be the BJP but the non-Congress, non-BJP parties. The people who have voted so resoundingly against the Congress have done so against the policies of the Congress which has heaped burdens on them like price rise, unemployment and corruption. The BJP has no policies which are different. What is required is to provide the people a secular democratic alternative which is based on alternative policies. (December 11, 2013)